Love, by George [NOOK Book]

Overview

Name: George
Breed: Harlequin Great Dane
Identifying Traits: One blue eye, one brown eye… and a propensity for trouble!

George was last seen escaping from the home of his recently divorced owner, restaurateur Brad Ralston. He wasn't wearing a leash and had a mischievous glint in his eye and is probably headed for Paws Spa, where single mom Kara Williams can be found grooming ...

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Love, by George

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Overview

Name: George
Breed: Harlequin Great Dane
Identifying Traits: One blue eye, one brown eye… and a propensity for trouble!

George was last seen escaping from the home of his recently divorced owner, restaurateur Brad Ralston. He wasn't wearing a leash and had a mischievous glint in his eye and is probably headed for Paws Spa, where single mom Kara Williams can be found grooming dogs and nursing her old crush on Brad.

Canine suspect is unarmed, but has an agenda—possibly recognizing two of his favorite humans, Brad and Kara, are so busy protecting their wounds from past hurts they can't see what's plainly under George's nose. If you see this dog, please do not report him immediately. He's got matchmaking to do.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426804564
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/1/2007
  • Series: You, Me & the Kids Series, #1434
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,120,102
  • File size: 203 KB

Read an Excerpt


"OH, GEORGE, WHAT HAVE YOU done? Are you trying to get me arrested for dognapping?"
The six-year-old Harlequin Great Dane dropped to a crouch, his gaze not meeting hers. Kara Williams's heart just about broke in half. She loved animals, and this big galoot was one of her favorite clients at The Paws Spa, her Pine Harbor, Oregon, pet-grooming business. He'd been one of her regulars until his owners, Brad and Lynette Ralston, split up. Now, Brad, who had custody of George and the couple's teenage son, routinely missed George's standing appointment.
Kara poked her head out the door to check the parking lot. Nope. No Brad. But she'd already figured that out after hearing George's loud woof and no sound of a car pulling in. Apparently George had decided to keep the appointment himself. Even if this was the wrong time and the wrong day.
Glancing at his big muddy paws, she guessed that his escape from the Ralstons'backyard had included some kind of digging. Sticks and weeds had attached themselves to his smooth black and white coat, and there was a bit of blood on his right ear. "Poor guy. This wasn't easy for you, was it?"
She went down on one knee and hugged the silly beast. She'd witnessed the aftermath of divorce-in dog terms-too many times. And it was never pleasant. Some animals would worry an open wound to the point where they had to wear a protective collar. Certain cats she'd met had suddenly turned into domestic demons that shredded curtains and left stinky deposits in their owners' shoes.
"Maybe I should be thankful Fly took off before he had a chance to put a ring on my finger," she murmured, gently stroking the big dog's powerful neck.
Fly had been her youthful folly. Her walk on the wild side. A walk that had resulted in twins.
"Come on in, boy," she said, opening the door of what had formerly been a 1960s era Laundromat. When she returned home halfway through her sophomore year of college to help care for her uncle Kurt, who'd been like a father to her, she'd found a job as a part-time dog groomer-and had fallen in love with the business. When the owner decided to retire and move out of the area, Kurt had encouraged Kara to open her own place-one she could put her unique stamp on.
The Paws Spa had just celebrated its seventh anniversary, and so much had happened in her life since that initial ribbon cutting. Meeting Fly (whose real name was Phil), getting pregnant, becoming a single mom to twins, losing Uncle Kurt. Her life had changed in so many ways, but the one constant was her commitment to her clients-and her dream.
"Watch your tail," she warned as George stepped through the doorway.
The sounds and smells that were so familiar to her enveloped them both as she followed George into the entry. The building was a rectangular block-walled edifice with four skylights and four plate-glass windows that faced the parking lot. When she and Uncle Kurt had first looked at it, it had been gutted, except for two rows of pipes sticking up where the washing machines had been. He'd been in remission at the time, and had provided the financial backing and the expertise to help her remodel.
It wasn't ideal but it served her needs. Half of the area was devoted to grooming stations and holding pens. The entry was spacious enough to provide owners a chance to peruse current animal magazines or shop for special extras for their pets. In the far corner was her tiny office.
"Who have you got there?" her friend and assistant Wilma Donning asked. "Why, George Ralston, does your father know you're here?"
George dipped his head in a way that made him look so guilt-ridden, both women burst out laughing. Kara and Wilma had a tendency to talk to all the pets in their care as if the animals understood every word. A select few responded with gestures and mannerisms that made Kara think they were reacting to her words, not her tone. George was one of those expressive types. Maybe it was his eyes-one blue, one brown. There was humor, intelligence, compassion and trust in those eyes.
"Let's not worry about how he got here," Kara said, grabbing a lead from the hook by the door.
"He's pretty stinky, and since Mrs. Fox canceled we have an opening. I'll call Mr. Ralston and let him know George is safe."
"As if he cares," Wilma grumbled. "Darned people who let their crazy love lives affect their animals' welfare."
Wilma was eighty-something. The exact number seemed to depend upon whom she was trying to impress or what point she was trying to make. But she was as feisty and energetic as some people half her age. She didn't have to work-Wilma and her husband had owned one of the biggest organic farming operations in the Pine Harbor area for as long as Kara could remember, and she'd sold it for a healthy sum after he passed away. Now she worked for Kara because, as Wilma often said, "Animals have humans beat, paws down."
Kara once asked why Wilma hadn't chosen to volunteer at the SPCA since she loved animals so much. "Don't care for the bureaucracy," Wilma had returned.
So the SPCA's loss was Kara's gain. Wilma could come off a bit gruff and abrupt with people, but the animals loved her. And Wilma also kept Kara grounded where her dreams were concerned.
Kara planned to turn The Paws Spa into a nationally franchised operation-like the Starbucks of pet grooming. High end. Catering to pet owners who wanted the very best for their animals-specialty grooming for show dogs, organic snacks, massage, yoga classes and group play dates.
The Pine Harbor Paws Spa was her prototype, but already her books were running in the black. Kara recorded every success and failure in a log that she hoped to use as a blueprint for future franchises.
Wilma was as dedicated an employee as Kara could ever have wished for. She came in early and stayed late. She even picked up or delivered animals for clients who were behind schedule. Kara longed for the day when she could pay Wilma what she was worth-even though the older woman insisted she was happy with the way things were.
"More business means more owners to deal with," she'd complain whenever Kara waxed enthusiastic about some new idea to increase her business.
But just as the animals in Wilma's care sensed how much the older woman loved them, Kara knew that deep down Wilma wanted her to succeed. She watched the tiny woman walk the huge dog to the bathing area that had been set up for large animals. George could have knocked Wilma over with his tail, but he was extremely courteous and careful around her.
Kara's heart did a familiar flip-flop and tears welled up in her eyes. Sometimes she thought her sappy emotions were the source of all her problems. "You're an old softy," her uncle used to say. "Just like your dad."
Kara didn't remember much about her father, who'd died when she was eight. His twin brother, Kurt, had been a substitute dad for most of her life. But he was gone now, too. And she still missed him. His parting gift to her had been the deed to this building, and Kara was determined to make him proud of her.
Returning her focus to the present, she walked to her desk for the phone. She quickly checked her client list, found the number for Willowby's, the upscale restaurant that Brad Ralston owned, and then turned to the large box that had been delivered that morning. An expert multitasker-as any mother of twins needed to be-she slipped the microphone attachment over her ear, pocketed the phone and started unpacking the new line of specialty collars and leashes she'd ordered.
As an avid student of millionaire entrepreneurscum-authors Robert Kiyosaki and Donald Trump, Kara knew she needed to be focused, more businessminded and fearless in the face of risk if she wanted to make her dream a reality. Successful franchises didn't just appear. They took work, dedication and determination.
"You've reached Willowby's," came the smooth, throaty tone of a woman's voice that Kara remembered all too well. Brad hadn't changed the message on his answering machine after his wife left?
"Funny," she mumbled.
"To make a reservation-" Kara hung up. She hadn't eaten at the place in years. Not since Kurt had taken her and her mother to brunch there when she was pregnant with the twins. Prior to that, the last time had been when she was a waitress. Staff had been allowed to eat at a discounted price, but often Brad would give leftovers to his servers after the kitchen had closed for the night. Brad Ralston had been a decent guy to work for, Kara remembered. She'd never had the same fondness for his wife, who had served as hostess and oversaw the hiring and firing of employees. Since Kara had been too young to drink, she'd rarely crossed paths with Reggie something or other, Brad's partner who used to run Willowby's bar.
"He's not picking up at the restaurant," she told Wilma, who was scrubbing George with such vigor the dog looked ready to melt into a puddle of bliss.
"I'll try his house. I don't think we have his cell number." She returned to her desk and consulted the client card. "Nope. Just Lynette's." But there's a line through it.
She didn't remember doing that, but she probably had. Everyone in town had heard about Lynette's running off with Reggie.
She punched in the home number. Another answering machine. Brad's voice this time. She'd always liked his voice. As she waited for the beep, she wondered how true the rumors and scandal surrounding the Ralstons' divorce had been. Some said the two lovers had embezzled from the business before leaving town.
"Um, hi, um, Brad-er, Mr. Ralston. This is Kara Williams calling from The Paws Spa. I just wanted to let you know that George showed up today. By himself. I don't know exactly how or why, but since he-um-you-um-missed his last appointment, I'm going to go ahead and bathe him and trim his nails. He'll be fine here until you show up to get him. Thanks." She almost hung up then remembered she needed to leave her number. She felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment. That was the silliest, most unprofessional message she'd ever left.
"What is wrong with me?"
She knew the answer, but she didn't want to acknowledge it. "I do not still have a crush on Brad Ralston. I was a dumb kid back then and he was a married man. I wanted something I couldn't have. I'm soooo over that kind of adolescent thrill-seeking behavior," she said with verve.
"Are you talking to yourself again?" Wilma called over the sound of water spraying.
"No. Just leaving a message. He didn't answer at either number."
"Probably had to go to the school to pick up his kid," Wilma said.
"Why do you say that?" Kara asked as she walked to the comfortably appointed wire kennels where two dogs in separate holding pens were having a discussion of their own. She gave each animal a treat from her pocket. "Good boy, Hunter.Your mom will be here soon." A mixed breed with beagle ears and an excitable personality, Hunter took her offering and paced around, no doubt looking for a spot to bury it.
"Here you go, Pansy. Chew your bone like a good girl." Pansy, a cocker spaniel, was twelve, overweight and highly pampered.
Kara turned her attention back to Wilma. "What were you saying about Brad's son?"
"Margaret Mieda in my bridge group. Her daughter drives a school bus. She says Brad's boy has got a real attitude problem."
Kara removed her earphone and dropped the unit on her desk, pausing to pet Whitey and Tiger, her two resident "guard" cats. The neutered males usually ducked out of sight when large dogs appeared, but they'd never seemed intimidated by George, and with Pansy and Hunter safely behind bars, they obviously felt brave enough to nap on her keyboard.
"That's too bad. Maybe that explains why George has missed so many appointments."
Wilma's bridge group met every Tuesday morning, and she always returned to work with an earful of gossip. "It's not surprising that the boy has problems. Dogs aren't the only ones that take it to heart when a family falls apart."
Kara agreed. That was partly why she planned not to get involved seriously with any man until after her children were through school. Maybe even college. Why take the risk? Her mother's impulsive marriage to a man who promised to take care of her and her little girl but wound up doing just the opposite had shaped Kara's opinion of matrimony for the worse. And her own experience with Fly had confirmed that love was like stepping off the edge of the world. The free fall might be exciting, but the landing hurt like hell.
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